Beta restaurant’s new menu allows interstate travelling from North to South, all in one seating.
It was a rainy Wednesday evening with rolling thunder when we arrived at Beta KL just in time to have a go at Chef Raymond Tham’s latest culinary offerings ever since the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the F&B industry.
The new menus come in two different versions, the Taste of Beta and the Tour of Malaysia. We managed to indulge in the latter menu, as well as a special cocktail pairing that was also cooked up by Chef Raymond. Both the menus and special cocktails uses ingredients from different regions of the country, playing up traditional dishes in a modern way and highlighting the best that Malaysia has to offer.
The start of the tour
Kicking off the journey was a selection of savoury snacks that, upon the first glance, looked simple enough but each packed punches of flavour and a play on textures. This was also when we were introduced to the first cocktail pairing: the Pollo-Me. Inspired by the the Northern state of Kedah – where pomelo is predominantly grown – the sweet and sour cocktail blended mint syrup and lime over a base of pomelo gin and green chartreuse. Bits of pomelo were also present in the cocktail, offering a bite of sweetness with each sip.
The Winged Beans tart came in an incredibly light and crisp shell, which delivered a satisfying crunch at the first bite. The raw winged beans were tossed in a creamy and spicy Budu aioli, together with crispy shallots and anchovies to create a medley of contrasting textures and delightful savouriness. The Cucur Udang was also pleasant to pop, with its crisp edges and satisfyingly chewy centre.
Keeping in-line with the theme of the menu, Chef Raymond created the Beta Truffles, also known as “the Malaysian black truffle”. Sautéed mushrooms and burnt butter were encased within a delicate bamboo-charcoal crumb to mimic the look of a real black truffle. It was surprising how thin the crust was, yet still retained its crispiness and sturdiness around the mushrooms. The truffles were accompanied by the Rendang Bao, which was stuffed with unctuous foie gras and chicken liver paté. The spices and the fats melted together as one without overpowering each other, and the actual skin of the bao had a hint of sweetness that was reminiscent of a choux pastry-mexican conchas.
The last of the snacks took us to Brickfield’s colourful Little India, with the Inverted Karipap. A potato skin cylinder housed a hearty potato and carrot curry filling. While visually appealing and brought to the palate a more delicate, balanced version of the usually heavy curry puff, it really was just another version of local pie.
Next up on the entrées was the Clam dish, which was blanketed with a refreshing and zesty Ambarella granita and mixed with a touch of seaweed. The palate cleanser was topped off with shaved white radish and ulam raja for an added bite to the dish. Straight off the bat, the dish stood out as one of the highlights of the meal, as the meaty clams and briny seaweed contrasted beautifully with the icy Ambarella, which is also known as a fruit mainly served as a juice in Penang.
The clams were paired with a very fitting cocktail, the Paddy Terroir, inspired by the rice fields of Kedah. On the nose, the cocktail gave off a gentle and floral aroma, while the creaminess of the house-made rice wine, Malibu rum and egg white foam was met with a hint of lime to break through the sweetness.
The last two of the appetisers came in the form of Baked Aubergine and Crab chawanmushi. Both ranked high on the savoury scale, each being rich in spices and bold flavours. The aubergine was crowned with a sourdough-quinoa crust, and spicy masak lemak – the latter being a tumeric, chilli, and coconut-based curry native to the state of Negeri Sembilan. Once again, we were entertained with the contrasting textures of soft creamy aubergine with the crunchy crust, and the piquant curry cream softened by crunchy cubes of pickled cucumber.
The Crab Chawanmushi had flecks of poached mud crab within the smooth egg custard, and was served with a crab-shaped tuille that echoed the childhood snack murukku. While delicious, the natural sweetness of the custard and crab were overpowered by the rich chilli crab foam and bottom layer of crab shell stock. Here we were also presented with the BOH – Beast of Highland cocktail – obviously inspired by the cooling Cameron Highlands. This wonderfully fruity and floral drink comprised of vodka, kombucha, strawberry purée, dried rose, and fluffy egg white foam.
The main attractions
Since the entrées were already so unique and robust in flavour, it came as a shocking realisation that we hadn’t even touched the main courses yet. Fortunately, we had the chance to try out the Fish, Lamb Rack, and Wagyu Striploin dishes.
Out of the three mains, the grilled barramundi was the lightest of the lot. Its flaky texture was owed to the fish being marinated with ‘lees’ – the residual product from the homemade rice wine, before being glazed with seaweed oil and wrapped with kombu. Pickled bamboo shoots, mustard greens, and mustard seed acted as textural accents to the dish. The barramundi was meant to go with the Jiang Xiao Bai-based Assam Pedas cocktail, which brought a spicy kick to the dish with the inclusion of lemon and chilli. Though honestly, the cocktail itself simply tasted too similar to the Malay dish, and almost felt like we were eating two dishes at once.
The Wagyu striploin was requested to be done rare, and it did present itself with a very pleasing, rich pink-red hue. The natural sweetness from the well-marbled wagyu practically melted in the mouth without feeling too cloying – almost reminiscent of a very fine French butter. The fermented black bean cream and beef jus on the side provided an added dose of salt and umami, creating a balanced yet robust meat dish that will leave any carnivore satisfied. This beef was served with Beta’s Pepper-Groni cocktail, a Malaysianised version of the popular Italian apéritif. A blend of Hennessy, Campari, and Rosso Vermouth met the strong bite of Sarawak pepper bitters, resulting in a full-bodied drink that’s rich in woody spice, and married well with the equally robust wagyu.
Then came the crowd favourite, the pan-seared lamb rack. For those who usually disregard lamb as being too gamey should give Beta the benefit of the doubt. Marinating the lamb in housemade barley koji-shio for 24 hours provided a truly pleasing and fragrant flavour to the meat, while working as a tenderiser to yield a soft texture. Though it was served with a dollop of creamy roasted black garlic and raisin jus, it could’ve easily stood out on its own without any of the other accoutrements. It went perfectly with the accompanying Bak Kut Teh cocktail, which was built on a foundation of bourbon whisky, and then enhanced with a soy and garlic reduction and umami tincture, topped off with rum-infused woodchips on a giant ice ball.
A sweet taste of home
While the Tour of Malaysia menu offered two types of desserts, Chef Raymond was more than gracious to let us try the Kaya & Kopi treat from the Taste of Beta menu. This dessert took inspiration from the classic local brekkie: kaya toast and a ‘kaw’ cup of kopi peng. The ‘kaya toast’ came in the form of a lightweight kaya cream sandwiched between puff pastry. This perfectly captured the essence of ‘breakfast for dessert’, and was completed with a small cup of mocha cremeux and coffee foam, representing the coffee element.
Despite our already full bellies, we couldn’t leave the meal without digging into the Beta’s king of desserts – the Musang King parfait. Durian lovers will rejoice at this dessert, as the Musang King flesh was whipped into creamy submission, forming a dome of pungent sweetness. It’s topped off with a small crown of roasted peanuts that had been coated with light caramel and chocolate, and finished with a slice of chocolate that was in the shape of a lotus root. All the main ingredients hailed from Pahang, even the Semai chocolate that was made none other than our own Chocolate Concierge.
As we came to the end of Beta KL’s Tour of Malaysia, it truly felt like we were taken on an awe-inspiring journey. Familiar flavours of home mingled with contemporary presentations and combinations, creating a menu that can easily satisfy even the most traditional palates. It didn’t take long for us to yearn for another trip.
Location: Unit 3 & 3A, Lot, Retail, 163 No. 10, Jalan Perak, Kuala Lumpur, 50450 Kuala Lumpur
Make your reservations here.
Photography: Anson Siau